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White Sox ace Chris Sale confident in quick return to rotation

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Updated: April 22, 2014 11:45PM

DETROIT — Left-hander Chris Sale is relieved and confident.

Relieved that there’s no damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, and confident that he’ll miss only two starts and be pitching again in two weeks.

“Without a doubt,’’ Sale said before the Tigers and Justin Verlander beat the White Sox and Charlie Leesman, Sale’s fly-in replacement from Class AAA Charlotte, 8-6 on Tuesday. “Anytime you have something going on that you are not quite certain of, you want to get down to the bottom of it regardless of whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. Fortunately for us, the news was as good as we could have possibly gotten.’’

As of April 16, 20 pitchers had gone down with elbow problems requiring Tommy John surgery, and that alarming rate had Sale on edge when he went for an MRI Monday.

“It made me a little bit more nervous just because you don’t know,’’ he said. “The thing that kind of helped me out was it was the same soreness that I usually have after a start. It was just more of it in the same spot.’’

Sale has a flexor muscle strain in the elbow. When he heard a doctor say his UCL was excellent, he said he walked out of the room.

“That’s all I needed to hear,’’ Sale said.

That this issue feels almost identical to the one that took him out of the rotation momentarily in May 2012, and that he carried on normally after that, leads Sale to believe he’ll be fine.

He downplayed the significance of throwing a career-high 127 pitches. Manager Robin Ventura suggested it probably won’t alter his thought process on pitch counts for his ace, either.

“Nah, it depends on how he’s feeling,’’ Ventura said. “Depending on how the game is going. You can let him go in certain types of games; I think that was one to let him go.’’

Sale was put on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Friday, so he can come off May 3 when the Sox are in Cleveland. He’s sure he’ll be back when his time is up.

“Absolutely. I have no reason to believe not,’’ he said.

Leesman, making his first start since Aug. 9, lasted 22/3 innings, allowing six runs and nine hits.

Jose Abreu staked him to a 1-0 lead with a home run against Verlander beyond the 420-foot sign in center, Abreu’s sixth, but Leesman gave up a run in the first and five in the third when the first five Tigers reached with hits. Miguel Cabrera hit his second homer of the season.

Dayan Viciedo had four hits, including a double, matching his career high. Viciedo (.361) is 15-for-35 since taking over for injured Avisail Garcia as the right fielder.

NOTES: Center fielder Adam Eaton missed his third consecutive game and will begin to wear a brace around his left knee. First thought to be a lower left hamstring strain, Eaton said a tendon is “kind of rolling over on the inside back part of my knee,’’ which he said is a better diagnosis. Eaton ran stairs and hopes to be back in a day or two.

† Third baseman Conor Gillaspie did not play because of soreness in the soft part of his left hand below the thumb. Gillaspie said it needs a day or more to quiet down, and he will begin using a pad to protect it.


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